And the more Hong Kong officials do to quiet the city's unrest, the more their methods are scrutinized by citizens for any whiff of the mainland's surveillance-first approach to law and order.
When asked why they hide their identities, Hong Kong's protesters often refer to something called "white terror."
She wore her strawberry-print bandana across her nose and mouth, she explained, because she didn't know if there were unfriendly cameras in the area. If a photo of her was posted online or given to mainland authorities, she said, "Maybe there will be some fighting, or effort to check your background, or some shouting at you, or some difficulty when you cross the border to China." She said that she was sure her employer, a construction contractor, would fire her if she was identified as a protester.
After several hours under the afternoon sun, the audience suddenly erupted around one elderly man in the front row. Interrupting the speakers onstage, they accused him being a spy tasked with taking photos for Chinese authorities, which he denied.
As dozens pressed around him, his knees buckled and he was half-dragged to a low wall nearby. Teenagers, senior citizens and everyone in between shouted at him, forcing him to delete the pictures he had taken. "I want them for my memories," he repeated weakly, making eye contact with no one. Only that evening did the protesters eventually let him wander off, grudgingly satisfied that he had deleted any pictures that could be used to identify their faces.
While rumors circulate that mainland officials are building a photo database of known protesters, there are already online efforts to crowdsource the names of both protesters and police. On encrypted app Telegram, channels dedicated to exposing personal information of people on both sides of the protest front lines have attracted tens of thousands of users.
But protesters already on watch for Beijing's shadow are skeptical of officials' reassurances about what the lamp posts do, or might do in the future.
"Can the Hong Kong government ensure that they will never install facial recognition tactics into the smart lamp post?" asks Joshua Wong, the 22-year-old Umbrella movement leader and prominent pro-democracy activist. "They can't promise it and they won't because of the pressure from Beijing."
"We find it not acceptable and deeply regret that a local small enterprise has been doxxed and attacked because of its participation in the smart lampposts project. The incident is a serious blow to the hard work of the local innovation and technology industry," a government spokesman said.
"People are strongly aware that Hong Kong in the worst scenario could be the next Xinjiang," Wong said.
While there's no sign that either scenario is in the cards for Hong Kong, both are indicative of what Hong Kongers fear -- a shift away from rule of law and the use of dragnet surveillance not just to catch people mid-crime, but to root out undesirable actions, relationships and ideas, even if they're legal on paper.
Furthermore, laws can always be changed, as points out Stuart Hargreaves, associate law professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
"The government could always abandon the law entirely, subject to the obligations it is under, thanks to the Basic Law (which does include a right to privacy), or it could amend the law to say that imagery gathered for public security is not subject to the retention elements of the law," he said. But for now, he adds, "there's no evidence they plan to do this."
He emphasizes there is also no evidence that the government's new lamp posts are a cover for increased surveillance.
"The fears of the smart posts are a proxy for fears about the deteriorating status of civil liberties in Hong Kong generally, rather than because of evidence that the government has used CCTV cameras in a particularly nefarious way," Hargreaves said.
For now, they seem to see little reason to give up their masks.